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Human Metapneumovirus Burden High for Young Children

THURSDAY, Feb. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Children younger than 5 years old have substantial rates of hospitalizations and outpatient visits for human metapneumovirus (HMPV), according to a study published in the Feb. 14 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Kathryn M. Edwards, M.D., from the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tenn., and colleagues assessed the prevalence of HMPV infection from 2003 to 2009 using a reverse-transcriptase polymerase-chain-reaction assay in inpatient and outpatient children younger than 5 years old who were asymptomatic or had acute respiratory illness or fever.

The researchers found that HMPV was present in 1 percent of asymptomatic children, 6 percent of hospitalized children, 7 percent of children in outpatient clinics, and 7 percent of children in the emergency department. The annual hospitalization rate was one per 1,000 children, but was two to three per 1,000 for children younger than 1 year. The rates of outpatient visits associated with HMPV were 55 per 1,000 clinic visits and 13 per 1,000 emergency department visits. The authors note that these rates are similar to influenza virus and lower than respiratory syncytial virus. Compared with children hospitalized without HMPV, children hospitalized with HMPV were older and more likely to have more severe disease. Most children with HMPV infection had no underlying medical conditions.

"In conclusion, HMPV is frequently associated with acute respiratory illness in young children that requires medical attention, and HMPV infection represents a substantial health care burden among both inpatients and outpatients," Edwards and colleagues conclude.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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